Friday, February 20, 2009

The Culture of Shame and Blame

It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I had a startling revelation.

As I've stated before, being the victim of sexual abuse myself and having a mother (actually the aunt that raised me) blame me for the abuse and not the perpetrator, made me know how I wanted to treat my daughter's situation. Exactly the opposite of how I had been treated.

The hardest part of my childhood experience was that my aunt was the person who took in other people. She was the one who tried to be supportive of other people when their lives hit the skids. People respected her. People didn't think she had a bad bone in her body.

So it took a long time for me to realize and admit that she was wrong. A child is never to blame for abuse. An adult is never innocent when they abuse a child. Sounds like a rather obvious statement, doesn't it? That simple truth was never spoken to me when I was nineteen and telling her that her boyfriend molested me when I was a kid. She called me a slut. Thus began a long decent into depression for me that encompassed her diagnosis with terminal cancer and eventual death. Even though I realized she was wrong before she died, I couldn't bring myself to go to her hospital room and lay out all the dirty laundry. Instead, I tried to commit suicide. It seemed like the easier way out of a shit load of pain. Thankfully, I was unsuccessful.

It wasn't until I was at a work meeting a few weeks ago and we began to discuss the whole culture of blaming victims and shaming people into thinking that they are wrong for things that were perpetrated against them that I had my entire life laid bare. For as long as I can remember, the shame/blame game (say that fast three times) has been the nexus of my life. Growing up, I was told that being seen naked by any man meant that you had lost your virginity. When I told my aunt that since I was delivered by a male obstetrician, I lost my virginity on the day I was born she was less than impressed by my humor.

I was actually a good kid growing up and I know that my aunt spoke highly of me to her friends but somewhere between the darkness and the light, there was a constant shadow of assumption on her part. I MUST be doing something wrong...I MUST be up to something...I MUST be a bad kid somehow.

This constant noise in the background of your mind makes you start believing the shame and blame. It makes you carry it through your life like a yoke around your neck.

Then you get into relationships and in retrospect, you realize that you have replayed the scenario for years. People that want to shame and blame others have a tendency to hook up with willing partners. I sat in the meeting at work and realized how I was the perfect spouse for my husband.

Ignore me.
Talk down to me.
Treat me like I'm stupid.
Be condecending to me.
Ignore your children until you decide to molest one of them.
Blame everyone for everything that you have ever done wrong.

I was just replaying the role that I knew so well.

When I told one of my relatives what had happened to my daughter her first question was
"And you didn't know this was going on???"

Her second question was
"Why didn't she ever tell you???"

This is me. Right here, right now. This is me saying "Enough".

The blame and shame stops here.

Perhaps the operative question should be, "How could anyone do this to a child?"

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